Columbus City Council delays vote on tax abatement for Ninth Avenue Foods

Sterile tanks are shown at beverage production company Ninth Avenue Foods in California, which plans to open a Midwest headquarters in Columbus. Photo provided Submitted photo

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus City Council has delayed a vote on a tax abatement for a California-based food and beverage manufacturer due to some questions regarding wastewater.

While Columbus City Council had been scheduled to consider a request from Heritage Distributing Company, Inc doing business as Ninth Avenue Foods for a personal property tax abatement at its meeting Tuesday, this did not end up taking place.

Mayor Jim Lienhoop told The Republic that a couple of council members had questions about the wastewater discharge from Ninth Avenue’s plant.

“It’s been a little higher than what was anticipated when their original permit was issued, and so council members are wanting to know what we’re doing to respond to that,” he said. “And we’ve got several good answers and some more plans in the works, but in order to be able to put that together and give them a complete answer, it’s going to take a little bit more time.”

As for the company’s abatement request, Ninth Avenue Vice President of Development Joe Lunzer wrote in a letter to city officials that the company’s plans call for an investment of $18 million in new manufacturing lines, including one processing line and one packaging line. It’s expected that the project will result in an additional 10 jobs at the plant.

If the council approves Ninth Avenue’s request for an abatement on this new equipment, the new personal property taxes will be phased in over a 10-year period, with the percentage of abatement decreasing each year. Assistant director of community development Robin Hilber said it’s estimated that the company would pay about $654,000 in new taxes over the 10-year period, with the abatement saving them approximately $975,000.

The council previously voted in 2021 to approve Ninth Avenue’s request for tax abatements on $32 million in real property investment and $70 million in personal property investment for equipment. Hilber said at the time that the company’s decision to locate the plant in Columbus was contingent on the approval of these incentives.

According to Lunzer, Ninth Avenue recently finished construction of its new $103 million-plus dairy and plant-based beverage production facility on the south side of Columbus.

“As of today, we now proudly employ 85 persons at our 220,000 SF Columbus facility, including manufacturing, logistics, and R&D positions,” he wrote to city officials in late August. “As previously pledged, we fully expect to reach 101 full-time positions before the end of next year.”

The 10 jobs forecasted from the proposed $18 million investment would be in addition to the 101 promised in 2021, he said.